LEES CREK — After a slow start, the high-octane Blanchester Wildcats pulled away from East Clinton Friday night for a 79-47 win in SBAAC National Division boys basketball action at a packed EC gym.
It was an eventful opening minute as Dylan Peterman drew an offensive foul on Sipple, who was not fazed as he calmly buried a long three on the next possession to open the scoring.
Branson Smith was active offensively early, scoring EC’s first four points to keep the Astros close. Blanchester full court pressure forced a timeout from Berlin at the 5:00 mark with BHS on top 7-4. After the timeout, EC’s Landon Runyon hit a three from the right wing to tie things at 7.
Foul trouble for the Wildcat’s Sipple came at the 1:30 mark as he picked up his second, and went to the bench. It was the team’s seventh of the quarter to put the Astros in the bonus. Two Quinten Tolle free throws followed by a length of the court drive by Smith gave the Astros their first lead, and the momentum was squarely in the home teams favor.
After a Hunter Bare field goal, the Wildcats clung to a one point lead, 15-14, after one quarter. For the Astros, it was one of their best quarters of the season, getting to almost every loose ball and playing excellent defense, drawing three charges in the period.
“We have been having some tough practices. We have worked on those little things, a step in the right direction tonight.” said Berlin.
BHS coach Adam Weber acknowledged the Astros early play. “Their effort level was much better than ours in the early going. Our defensive intensity was lacking. We had to regroup at halftime with some constructive criticism.”
Bare picked up his second foul early in the period, and for a brief period Blanchester was without their two leading scorers. Weber’s bench came through, however, as the Wildcats went of a 6-0 run to extend their lead to seven. Jackson Waialae was the next Wildcat to get in foul trouble, as his second came at the 6:00 mark.
With three starters in foul trouble, Weber was forced to come back with Sipple at that juncture, and his leading scorer went to work (12 points in the quarter), leading a BHS charge that quickly extended to a 10-point advantage. The Astros would not go away. Three straight points by Smith, cut it back to 7.
Then for the fourth time in the half, the Astros took a charge, this one drawn by Matt Hall. After a Sipple three, a Branson Smith layup at the buzzer, made it 31-24 Blanchester, in what was in all estimation a very competitive first half.
Tanner Creager, made the fourth Wildcat starter to be in foul trouble, as he picked up his second and third foul in the period. In total, Blanchester committed 13 first half fouls, leading to 13 free throw attempts for the Astros in the half.
Sipple’s 20th and 21st points of the night opened up the second half scoring for the Wildcats. Waialae followed with a steal and one hand jam that ignited the Blanchester faithful, and extended the lead back to double digits. As the quarter moved along, the Wildcats seemed to wear down the Astros.
“I was very pleased with the first four minutes of the third quarter. We started running the floor and playing defense they way we typically do,” Weber said.
East Clinton has been plagued by one quarter in several games where the offense has been difficult to come by. The first five minutes of the period only yielded two Astro points, as the BHS lead continued to grow.
“The third quarter was our nemesis. We took some bad shots that led to points in transition for them. Blanchester is very good, you can’t have those lapses against a team like that,” said Berlin.
A thunderous dunk by Bare put the exclamation point on a strong quarter for the Wildcats. They corrected their first half foul issues, not committing a foul in the period. A EC three by Runyon in the final minute made the score BHS 52-35 as the game went to the fourth.
Bare’s second dunk of the night followed by a Sipple basket in the opening moments of the final period finally put the Astros away for good.
Sipple was “held” to under 30 points for just the third time this season, but still put up a game-high 29 points in leading his team to victory. Hunter Bare added 16. For the Astros, Branson Smith totaled 20 points.
East Clinton (1-16) is back home Saturday night hosting Cedarville in non-league play, while Blanchester (16-1) also is in action Saturday at home versus Batavia.
As January came to a close, East Clinton had one more opportunity to honor those who have served. EC athletic director Jim Marsh presented the EC Medal of Honor to retired US Army veteran and East Clinton volleyball coach Bob Malone, and Vietnam War veteran Willie Blanton, who is also the grandfather of Wildcat star, Brayden Sipple.
In the junior varsity game, Bryce Highlander had 11 points as Blanchester defeated East Clinton 71-52. Justin Arnold led the Astros with 16 points.
The freshman Wildcats were 48-18 winners. Levi Montgomery posted 17 points for Blanchester. Dylan Day had seven for East Clinton.
Jan 31, 2020
@East Clinton High School
Blanchester 79 East Clinton 47
(79) BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Sipple 12-3-2-29 Roy 1-0-2-4 Creager 4-1-0-9 Waialae 3-1-0-7 Abbott 1-1-0-3 Heitzman 2-0-0-4 Ashcraft 1-0-0-2 Hartman 0-0-2-2 Bare 6-0-4-16 Highlander 1-1-0-3. TOTALS 31-7-10-79
(47) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Smith 8-1-3-20 Collom 2-1-2-7 Garen 0-0-0-0 Runyon 3-2-0-7 Tolle 1-0-2-4 Peterman 1-1-1-4 Hoffman 0-0-0-0 Arnold 0-0-0-0 Hall 0-0-0-0 Mitchell 1-0-0-2 Vadnais 1-0-0-2 TOTALS 17-5-8-47
Brian Georges covers high school sports for the News Journal.